New Orleans Democrats have formally denounced one of their own, saying that state Rep. Neil Abramson’s failed bid to become speaker of the Louisiana House and his eventual vote for a Republican candidate cost his party the chamber’s top leadership position.I love it when we get political "rebukes." They don't come around very often and nobody knows what they mean. They don't seem to have any binding effect on anything and can be revoked whenever convenient. They are the sternly worded letter of organizational politicking.
The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee this week adopted a resolution that “rebukes” Abramson’s actions in the speaker’s race and urges voters in his Uptown district to “reflect on the actual fiscal and policy costs of those unfathomable decisions.”
The resolution had been in the works since last week, when members of the Executive Committee called a special meeting to hash out what they described as Abramson’s betrayal of his party and governor during the speaker’s race.
My favorite political "rebuke" of all time was delivered in 2006 during a New Orleans mayoral debate by one of the challengers, Reverend Tom Watson, to incumbent Ray Nagin. Watson was very loud about it. I wrote this after having watched it on TV.
The classic moment of the campaign came later when Rev. Tom Watson challenged Nagin to explain his "double talk" meaning his tendency to contradict his own statements depending upon the make up (race) of his audience. Watson admonished Nagin not to "apologize for being a black man." Watson also challenged Nagin's assertion that the state is "holding up" reconstruction funds and let fly at Nagin with all of the fire and brimstone he could muster here declaring, "Ray Nagin is the problem! Ray you are lying! You are a liar!" At one point in this exchange Watson actually used the words "I rebuke you." Nagin's response to all of this was even better. During the reverend's tirade Nagin affected to bless Watson making the sign of the cross and shouting, "Pastor! God bless you!"Sounds serious, right? Naturally Watson went on to endorse Nagin in the runoff that year in what has to be the most dramatic un-rebuking of all time.
Anyway, at the very least this precedent would suggest that a "rebuke" really isn't the most serious sort of penalty a body can incur. In Abramson's case I suspect it might even be exactly the sort of briar patch he'd been hoping to get thrown into in the first place. Last week, we speculated that Abramson might be trying to engineer a bit of a break with the local Democrats (or even find an excuse to switch parties altogether.) He's term limited in his House district and may be eyeing a step up to a much more heavily Republican Senate seat.
If that's true, it might help explain why Abramson would welcome a benign little public feud with OPDEC like this. His (and his wife's) odd behavior on social media, though, is a bit harder to explain. The following is from a column written by a 22 year old opinion writer for the LSU student newspaper who has been critical of Rep. Abramson. Lamar had to publish the column at his site because Ms. Abramson has apparently prevailed upon the school to censor it.
But there is always an excuse for Abramson. Recently, his wife Kim took to Twitter to argue with me over her husband’s pitiful record. Here is our full interaction.Since Lamar published the article, the Abramsons have gone on a bizarre social media purge, locking down or deleting their own tweets (including some the student tried to quote in the Storify above) and blocking anyone who shares the story.. including Lamar and a few newspaper reporters who referenced it. It's a strange way for public figures to go about doing damage control. In fact, their reaction has probably given the whole dust-up more legs than it would have had otherwise.
Because she didn’t like my characterization of her husband, Kim Abramson, a lawyer, emailed Jerry Ceppos, the dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, and called the editor-in-chief of LSU’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Reveille, claiming she sought to “politely correct me” and reported my “harassment” to Twitter.
In “politely correcting me,” Mrs. Abramson called me a liar, told me to “get a life,” and attempted to get me fired me from my job as an opinion columnist for The Daily Reveille.
So why? Well, as many others have pointed out, Mrs. Abramson (like a lot of us do) tends to throw a little more of her personality into her social media presence than she probably ought to at times. Her overreactions, particularly to criticisms of her husband, have become minor Twitter legends over the years. It's at least a little bit understandable that a red-blooded person might behave this way. We are none of us perfect and who among us has not said things we'd rather take back when we're worked up?
But this time, in light of everything else going on, I wonder if maybe this reaction is more calculated. If Abramson wants to run for Senate, he will have to do so either as a Republican or as a Democrat visibly on the outs with the local Democratic establishment. It follows also that he may like to be seen as visibly defiant of the Democratic governor as well as certain factions of the press and, of course, the "miserable democrats... who eat their own," as Mrs. Abramson characterizes her Twitter sparring partners. (John Georges once famously referred to such persons as "dangerous people" on the internet.)
Or maybe it's all just a tone-deaf wreck. Guess we'll find out over the next few years as Abramson either learns to make nice with everyone or goes on to earn or issue further "rebukes."